Carol Fetherston wants to start an opera tradition in Nanaimo.
Fetherston is the president of Opera Nanaimo, which since 2013 has been producing concerts in the Nanaimo area. On Dec. 31, the opera company is presenting its first New Year’s Eve event.
“It’s been a big tradition in Europe but also most of the North American major cities,” she said. “Both Vancouver and Victoria do a Viennese concert at New Year’s and the reason is that so much of this music suits New Year’s. It’s bubbly, it’s about champagne, it’s light, it’s fun, it’s a lovely way to celebrate the New Year.”
The performance, Vienna: My City of Dreams, takes place at the German Cultural Centre, a venue that Fetherston says is an impressive, suitable space.
There will be six singers performing highlights from Johann Strauss II’s Die Fledermaus, The Merry Widow by Franz Lehár and other music from what Fetherston calls “the golden age of operetta.” The singers will be joined by a string quartet featuring members of the Nanaimo Chamber Orchestra and Vancouver Island Symphony. There will also be a pair of ballroom dancers performing the Viennese waltz and the polka. Although the event is taking place in the afternoon, Fetherston noted that at 3 p.m. it will be midnight in Vienna.
Fetherston recruited two tenors from the mainland, Scott Rumble and Sergio Augusto, that she watched sing in the Metropolitan Opera Western Canada District auditions at UBC in November.
“I went to see them and I was blown away by how good they are and they’re going to come over,” she said. “Singers actually come from all over Canada for these auditions and these two tenors were in it and they were outstanding talent and so I’m quite thrilled that they’re coming to Nanaimo.”
Augusto described the repertoire he’ll be performing as “honey on the voice.”
“It’s just soft and croony and very easy to sing, which makes it of course harder to sing because it must appear as if it’s just flowing out of you. It’s very flowy music, very satisfying,” he said.
“I find these a lot more lighthearted and generally a bit more fun than you normally get with opera,” Rumble added. “Because [in] operetta of course the plots are usually outrageous and hilarious. Usually mistaken identities and things like that.”
A New Year’s resolution for Opera Nanaimo is to continue bringing bigger and bigger opera events to the city. In November the company will produce its first full-length opera, Giacomo Puccini’s Madama Butterfly at Malaspina Theatre. But Fetherston said she has a bigger stage in her sights.
“We hope that maybe with time, and as Nanaimo’s growing, that we might be able to do some productions in the Port Theatre. That’s our ambition,” she said. “We’re a young company but we’re growing.”
WHAT’S ON … Opera Nanaimo presents Vienna: My City of Dreams at the German Cultural Centre, 71 Caledonia Ave., on Monday, Dec. 31 from 2 to 4:30 p.m. Doors open at 1:15 p.m. Tickets are $50, $45 for members, available at the Port Theatre box office. Semi-formal attire required.